The suspension of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was the “right thing to do” according to Lisa Nandy, the party’s shadow foreign secretary.
Corbyn, who led Labour for five years until earlier this year, was suspended from the party due to his response to a report published Thursday by the national equality and human rights watchdog into anti-Semitism in the party.
Speaking shortly after the report‘s publication, Corbyn acknowledged the existence of anti-Semitism in Labour and admitted the leadership could have done more. He also said that “the scale of the problem” had been “dramatically overstated” by political opponents and the media.
The party issued a statement after Corbyn’s comments announcing his suspension, saying: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation. He has also had the whip removed [been suspended] from the parliamentary Labour Party.”
Speaking to POLITICO, Nandy said she wasn’t surprised by the decision and supports the action taken against her former boss.
“It was clear from the reaction to Jeremy’s comments earlier in the day that there would be complaints made about him, it was very clear the party would have to take those seriously and that’s why I support the decision that’s been taken.”
“I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the investigation, but it was the right thing to do in my view,” she said.
The report found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination over anti-Semitism, and cites “serious failings” in the former leadership’s response to the crisis and its process for handling complaints.
Asked if she believes Corbyn himself is anti-Semitic, Nandy said she doesn’t know, despite being on “good terms” and having at times “exchanged texts” with him since taking on her foreign affairs-focused shadow cabinet role.
“I don’t know, is the honest answer … before he was elected leader I would have said that he doesn’t have an anti-Semitic or racist bone in his body,” she said. “But I have watched with absolute disbelief over the last few years what I believe to be not just a failure to deal with anti-Semitism but an unwillingness on many occasions to deal with anti-Semitism.”
Some supporters of Corbyn — who remains a source of inspiration for many on the British left — have accused new leader Keir Starmer of involving himself in the complaints process in order to suspend his predecessor. One of the EHRC report’s strongest criticisms was that Corbyn’s office had been responsible for “political interference” in the complaints process during his time as Labour leader.
Nandy rejected the accusation, telling POLITICO “it is wrong and hurtful” to suggest Corbyn’s suspension was a political act that Starmer was involved in.
“I am absolutely clear, because I have been assured from every level of the party, that Keir was not involved in that decision — it was a decision taken by the Labour Party. It is one he fully supports and he was briefed on it by the general secretary.”
She added: “What we are not going to do is begin the process of trying to regain trust, healing and setting right what this party has got badly wrong over recent years by breaking and rejecting the key recommendation of the EHRC report — which is that there should be no political interference in decisions that are made.”